Box & One With David Aldridge

By Wesley Chism Jr.
Updated: January 11, 2008

SEATTLE – In life there are certain people that can take a simple task and turn it into a work of art. As a kid, growing up in West Philadelphia, I would often arrive home late from school because I was fixated on Mr. Walters.

You see, Mr. Walters was a window washer that worked in Center City, which is downtown Philadelphia, and the way that he methodically covered the circumference of those windows without leaving a streak, way up in the sky on standing on a little piece of wood was something that would have even made Michael Angelo take out his paint brushes.

David Aldridge, Staff Writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reminds me a lot of Mr. Walters. The preparation, dedication and time that he gives to each of his subjects even before the camera goes on or the ink hits the paper is unbelievable.

I followed him around for about three hours taking notes of him taking notes. Staying within a good distance to hear some of the questions that he would ask and how the athletes would respond to him and were in no hurry to end the conversation.

I waited for David to finish up and then I asked what the keys to being a successful sports journalist were. “Oh that’s easy, reading and listening. I know that sounds simple but it’s the simple truth.”

“Read everything that you can possibly get your hands on sports, news or other magazines of interest. It is so important to know what is going on in the world and reading can take you anywhere you want to go.”

“I feel that the number one problem that many sport reporters have is that they don’t listen. You have a subject that starts answering a question and then you interrupt them when they might be telling you something great. Often time’s reporters are so focused on getting to their next question that they are not paying attention.

When you see David Aldridge on television he isn’t reading from a cue card. He has memorized everything that he has written down before the game and can repeat it word for word.

“It is a little trick that I learned with a lot of practice from one of my producers when I was working at ESPN. The more that you know about a subject will allow you to communicate effectively to an audience.”

David knew in his late teenage years what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. It came with a lot of trail and error and he had to write many stories until he got better at it much like anything else.

Time is the greatest factor in becoming a better at being a journalist. “You learn to listen to people and notice the little inflection in their voice which can tell you so much if you’re paying attention. You begin to build a comfort zone with people so that when you see them you are able to get right to the business at hand.”

David has a presence that would make him an outstanding news broadcaster. He’s trustworthy, confident and reliable source for information. “Somebody just asked me that same question the other day. I’ve always been fascinated about politics and I think that it would be fun covering a political campaign but I just love what I’m doing now so much.”

While working for the Washington Post, David wrote a moving piece on the Washington Redskins Dexter Manley while he was at the end of his career. In that article it chronicled some of the life changing situations that Dexter was facing due to his illiteracy. “I was proud very proud of that work because it started conversations that brought about change.”

Another memorable piece that stands out was on Formula 1 driver, Jim Crawford. “When I first met him in the hospital after suffering a terrible crash that broke twenty bones, required lots of surgeries and had him spend 12 hours a day in a hypobaric chamber. I just remember him saying that he would do anything just to race again and you would think that racing would be the last thing on his mind at the time.

“It reminded me that athletes really do what they do because they love it and it’s not the money. Don’t get me wrong money, I’m not saying money isn’t a factor just an added feature. When it comes right down to it, it truly is for the love and passion of the sport.”

You can tell in his writing or when on camera that David really enjoys covering sports. It wouldn’t matter if was High School, College or Professional athletes. “I’m fortunate to be up close and personal with these athletes so I know what they have put into it to get to this level and often times we fail as Reporters to covey that to our readers.”

Well, just like Mr. Walter, when he was finished a job, those windows were clean, clear and without a streak. They same thing holds true with David Aldridge. His writing is informative, thought provoking and inclusive but most importantly he always has the reader in mind.